Will Trump surprise some with Palestinian peace, just like he surprised with N Korea?

April 30, 2018

Fire seen last night at an Iranian missile base in the countryside south of Hama, one of dozens of bases that the Iranian regime has set up in Syria. Two dozen military personnel, 18 of whom were from Iran's feared Revolutionary Guards, were reported killed. Hundreds of advanced Iranian missiles were destroyed in the strike, according to Syrian sources.

Syrian state media claimed that the United States and Britain launched coordinated missile strikes from bases in northern Jordan last night, possibly as part of a campaign to roll back Iranian influence in preparation for renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal with the aim of making it much harder for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. By contrast, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel may have carried out last night’s strike.

 

ISRAEL AT 70

[Note by Tom Gross]

Modern Israel celebrated its 70th independence day according to the Jewish calendar earlier this month, and on May 14 Israel will turn 70 according to the much younger Gregorian calendar.

There have already been many articles to mark the occasion, including some very strident attacks on the Jewish state in the New York Times by writers such as Roger Cohen and far-left Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy (invited by the New York Times to become a guest contributor).

Below, I attach three more positive (and more accurate) articles. (All three writers -- Shmuel Rosner, Bret Stephens and Gil Troy -- are subscribers to this list.)

 

TRUMP SET TO MAKE MORE HEADWAY THAN THE PRESIDENTS BEFORE HIM?

If one closely reads the signals and hints delivered by Donald Trump, by his new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and by some Palestinians, and also the understandings on this issue with Russian President Putin, one can see that we may well be on the verge of a major peace breakthrough – which is the polar opposite of the impression one finds on the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post.

There have been indications that if Palestinian Authority President Abbas turns down yet another peace offer from Israel to create a Palestinian state, the leadership of the Arab world may replace him by someone (such as Mohammed Dahlan) who is more likely to agree to negotiate peace with Israel.

 

SAUDI CROWN PRINCE: PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP NEED TO ACCEPT US PROPOSALS “OR SHUT UP”

It was also revealed yesterday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last month that “in the past 40 years the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly missed opportunities and rejected all the proposals it has been given. The time has come for the Palestinians to accept the proposals and agree to come to the negotiating table - or shut up and stop complaining.”

I would stick by my prediction – which I first made when the then candidate Donald Trump started outlining a foreign policy – that Trump’s worldview and approach to foreign policy (however brash, vulgar and insulting he may often be) is far more likely to deliver a peace breakthrough between Israelis and Palestinians (just as it may also improve relations between North Korea and the rest of the world) than the misguided policy approach of only pressuring Israel by Barack Obama and John Kerry.

Indeed the soon-to-be-revealed Trump Middle East peace plan is likely to send the Israeli far right into despair because of the concessions he will ask Israel to make. Trump’s moving the American embassy to west Jerusalem and allowing Jonathan Pollard to immigrate to Israel (as Trump is rumored to be about to do) are little more than crumbs thrown at the Israeli right in preparation for the concessions he is about to ask both Israelis and Palestinians to make, concessions which Netanyahu has already indicated behind the scenes he may be prepared to accept.

 

AN END TO APPEASING PALESTINIAN REJECTIONISTS

I would like to clarify one point. Last December, I wrote that were Trump to fire secretary of state Rex Tillerson and replace him with his CIA director Mike Pompeo, Pompeo would become “the first properly pro-Israel US secretary of state in decades.” When Trump did fire Tillerson three months later, The Times of Israel and other media cited my December comment.

Pompeo and Trump are pro-Israel – but not in the sense that they are going to side with the Israeli hard right, but in the sense that they are going to inject some hard headed realism into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and stop appeasing Palestinian anti-peace rejectionists in the way that previous US secretaries of state have done (and many European politicians still do). Rather than appease Palestinian rejectionists by giving them even more money every time they turn down peace offers, the Trump administration will deliver a real sustainable non-belligerent agreement (including some division of Jerusalem) – and in this sense it is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian.

* Among my previous interviews last year predicting that Trump’s polices may lead to a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are this interview with British journalist and analyst Jonathan Sacerdoti. Or this interview with Hungarian TV. (Part of this longer interview from April 2017.)


ARTICLES

“THE LUCKIEST JEWS IN HISTORY”

The Luckiest Jews in History
By Shmuel Rosner
New York Times
April 17, 2018

(Shmuel Rosner is the political editor at The Jewish Journal, and formerly Washington correspondent for Haaretz )

TEL AVIV – I am perhaps the luckiest Jew who ever lived. Or if you are Jewish, you might be.

I am the Jew who gets to see Jewish ingenuity unapologetically celebrated, Jewish material success flourish, Jewish might acknowledged and the Jewish language rejuvenated. I am the Jew who after 2,000 years gets to witness Jewish political independence. And this is true of all Jews, whether they live here in Israel or experience this success in Jewish communities elsewhere in the world.

True, there is some competition for the luckiest generation of Jews: the time of Moses, Solomon’s kingdom or the Golden Age in Spain. But I think I can make a solid case for it.

Israel, the Jewish state, turns 70 this week. Around the time my grandmother was born in Lithuania, at the end of World War I, there were, according to scholars, about 60,000 Jews living in Palestine. When my mother was born in Mandatory Palestine, shortly before Israel declared its independence, there were about 600,000. I was born in 1968, when Israel celebrated its 20th anniversary, and during my childhood the number of Jews in this country was about three million, according to Israeli government statistics. Whenever today’s population is mentioned, I have a moment of cognitive dissonance: In my still-young mind we are still three million, even as my older body lives in an Israel of six million Jews.

Still, 70 years of independence is barely a blip on the radar of Jewish history. And the Jews of Israel are highly aware of our role as a small link in a long chain of Jewish history. We are modern Israelis, of course, but our consciousness is one of ancient Jews. In survey after survey, more Israelis choose “Jewish” over “Israeli” as their main identity. And by this they do not refer to a religion (Judaism) but to a nation (the Jewish people).

Thus, when celebrating 70 years of statehood, we Jews must engage in a kind of balancing act. On one hand, we need to appreciate the great achievement of building this Jewish homeland in such a short time in such a hostile environment. On the other hand, we need to grasp the smallness of this achievement in the scheme of Jewish history.

The prophet Jeremiah described the Babylonian exile as a 70-year affair. We consider that short. In the second century BCE, the Hasmonean kingdom, widely viewed as the last period of Jewish political autonomy before the founding of Israel, lasted for about eight decades before it became client of the Romans. This kingdom is still today a source of Jewish pride, but it is also a cautionary tale: Most Israelis plan for a future that extends much further than merely another decade of statehood.

So being the luckiest Jew ever is a blessing and a burden. The more we have, the more obligated we are to guard it and the more afraid we are to lose it. We’re afraid for psychological reasons: Jews thought they were lucky in the past, and it often ended badly for them (remember Germany in the early 20th century). But we are also afraid because of indisputably dangerous circumstances: There are people out there who want to harm us, deny us what we have and destroy us, from Iranian leaders to Palestinian extremists to anti-Semites around the world.

And Israel faces other challenges, some of which are familiar to many countries: economic inequality, populism, homegrown radicalism and illegal immigration. Not even the lucky Jew can ignore these and other challenges that hover like clouds over the future of Jewish sovereignty and success.

Still, Israelis tend to be hopeful. In a survey taken a year ago, 73 percent of Israeli Jews said they were optimistic “about Israel’s future.” They must see something beyond the challenges that makes them so confident. One of them, I believe, is this sense of being lucky, of being born at such a good time.

The number 70 has a special place in the Jewish tradition. The people of Israel make up one of 70 nations; Moses had 70 elders at his side as he wandered the desert; a well-known commentary suggests that God has 70 names, as does the city of Jerusalem. Celebrating 70 years of independence instinctively feels more special than 60 or 80. It instinctively connects the mind of a modern Israeli to the long, complicated and treacherous Jewish past. And it instinctively makes him aware that what feels like a long and sometimes exhausting journey is barely one lucky step on the dusty Jewish road.

 

THE END OF 1,878 YEARS OF EXILE

Jewish Power at 70 Years
By Bret Stephens
New York Times
April 20, 2018

Adam Armoush is a 21-year-old Israeli Arab who, on a recent outing in Berlin, donned a yarmulke to test a friend’s contention that it was unsafe to do so in Germany. On Tuesday he was assaulted in broad daylight by a Syrian asylum-seeker who whipped him with a belt for being “yahudi” – Arabic for Jew.

The episode was caught on video and has caused a national uproar. Heiko Maas, the foreign minister, tweeted, “Jews shall never again feel threatened here.”

It’s a vow not likely to be fulfilled. There were nearly 1,000 reported anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin alone last year. A neo-fascist party, Alternative for Germany, has 94 seats in the Bundestag. Last Thursday, a pair of German rappers won a prestigious music award, given largely on the basis of sales, for an album in which they boast of having bodies “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners.” The award ceremony coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

To be Jewish – at least visibly Jewish – in Europe is to live on borrowed time. That’s not to doubt the sincerity and good will of Maas or other European leaders who recommit to combating anti-Semitism every time a European Jew is murdered or a Jewish institution attacked. It’s only to doubt their capacity.

There’s a limit to how many armed guards can be deployed indefinitely to protect synagogues or stop Holocaust memorials from being vandalized. There’s a limit, also, to trying to cure bigotry with earnest appeals to tolerance. The German government is mulling a proposal to require recent arrivals in the country to tour Nazi concentration camps as a way of engendering a feeling of empathy for Jews. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that, to the virulent anti-Semite, Buchenwald is a source of inspiration, not shame.

All this comes to mind as Israel this week marks (in the Hebrew calendar) the 70th anniversary of its independence. There are many reasons to celebrate the date, many of them lofty: a renaissance for Jewish civilization; the creation of a feisty liberal democracy in a despotic neighborhood; the ecological rescue of a once-barren land; the end of 1,878 years of exile.

But there’s a more basic reason. Jews cannot rely for their safety on the kindness of strangers, least of all French or German politicians. Theodor Herzl saw this with the Dreyfus Affair and founded modern Zionism. Post-Hitler Europe still has far to fall when it comes to its attitudes toward Jews, but the trend is clear. The question is the pace.

Hence Israel: its army, bomb, and robust willingness to use force to defend itself. Israel did not come into existence to serve as another showcase of the victimization of Jews. It exists to end the victimization of Jews.

That’s a point that Israel’s restless critics could stand to learn. On Friday, Palestinians in Gaza returned for the fourth time to the border fence with Israel, in protests promoted by Hamas. The explicit purpose of Hamas leaders is to breach the fence and march on Jerusalem. Israel cannot possibly allow this – doing so would create a precedent that would encourage similar protests, and more death, along all of Israel’s borders – and has repeatedly used deadly force to counter it.

The armchair corporals of Western punditry think this is excessive. It would be helpful if they could suggest alternative military tactics to an Israeli government dealing with an urgent crisis against an adversary sworn to its destruction. They don’t.

It would also be helpful if they could explain how they can insist on Israel’s retreat to the 1967 borders and then scold Israel when it defends those borders. They can’t. If the armchair corporals want to persist in demands for withdrawals that for 25 years have led to more Palestinian violence, not less, the least they can do is be ferocious in defense of Israel’s inarguable sovereignty. Somehow they almost never are.

Israel’s 70th anniversary has occasioned a fresh round of anxious, if not exactly new, commentary about the rifts between Israeli and Diaspora Jewry. Some Diaspora complaints, especially with respect to religion and refugees, are valid and should be heeded by Jerusalem.

But to the extent that the Diaspora’s objections are prompted by the nonchalance of the supposedly nonvulnerable when it comes to Israel’s security choices, then the complaints are worse than feckless. They provide moral sustenance for Hamas in its efforts to win sympathy for its strategy of wanton aggression and reckless endangerment. And they foster the illusion that there’s some easy and morally stainless way by which Jews can exercise the responsibilities of political power.

Though not Jewish, Adam Armoush was once one of the nonchalant when it came to what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century. Presumably no longer. For Jews, it’s a painful, useful reminder that Israel is not their vanity. It’s their safeguard.

 

HOW ISRAEL’S SO POPULAR – DESPITE ITS ‘LOUSY’ PR

How Israel’s so popular – despite its ‘lousy’ PR
Everyone knows Israel’s losing the propaganda war, except me.
By Gil Troy
The Jerusalem Post
April 3, 2018

On the speakers’ circuit, I’m constantly asked: “Why is Israel’s PR so lousy?” Everyone knows Israel’s losing the propaganda war, except me. We face challenges – especially on campus and among some liberal Jews. But a recent Gallup Poll ruined this decades-long lamentation with some devastatingly good news: “Americans remain staunchly in Israel’s corner”; Israel’s 74% approval matches the “long-term high.”

Gallup asks: “Are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” After 50-plus years of Palestinian terrorism, 25 years of Palestinian dictatorship and 17-plus years of Islamist terrorism, you need a PhD, European citizenship, or certain rabbinic degrees to be capable of endorsing Palestinians’ perfectly awful political culture over Israel’s imperfect democracy.

This weekend’s demonstrations again demonstrated Palestinians’ addiction to violence. The New York Times reported that at the Hamas march, Israel didn’t respond militarily until “some” Gazans “began hurling stones, tossing Molotov cocktails and rolling burning tires at the fence” (of course the Times editorial deemed them “unarmed demonstrators” conducting “peaceful protests”). If the Palestinians ever go Gandhi on Israel their chances of statehood will soar; until then, the stalemate persists.

Americans remain decent, democratic, pragmatic.

They respect a people who share biblical values, and who, after enduring history’s worst crime, nevertheless created a stable, democratic ally. By contrast, mocking American ideals, deploying your kids as suicide murderers, preferring killing Jews to building your state, inciting to thuggery, and making terrorism your only export doesn’t play in Peoria.

True, some millennials and liberals are wavering.

American Jews exaggerate Israel’s PR problem because Israel is least liked where they worship most: the media and universities. Still, real America – “flyover country” – loves Israel. One red-state Republican congressman told me: “I didn’t know Israel was unpopular until I came to Washington!” Conservatives must not make supporting Israel a partisan issue. And liberals who hate US President Donald Trump but still love America must remember they can hate Israeli policies or politicians but still love Israel.

So let’s celebrate Israel’s miraculous 70 years: three million refugees rescued, Jewish destiny redrawn, Jewish culture resurrected, Jewish pride restored.

Toast the democratic values upheld, the moral approach to wars often implemented, the universal good generated ideologically, technologically, scientifically.

Still, anticipate the two-front propaganda assault that might make next month rocky PR-wise. Ronald Lauder started the first – the “Israel’s-disappointed- me-and-is-responsible-for-the-assimilation-process- that-started-a-century-or-two-before-Zionism- even-began” chorus. Anyone who cannot see Israel’s many, stunning accomplishments is blind; anyone who cannot admit Israel still has improving to do is foolish. But disappointed? Find its equal.

Continuing to alienate Americans with their belligerence, Palestinians will emphasize the negative, pointing to Deir Yassin’s destruction in 1948 as proof of “the Nakba.” Calling Israel’s founding the Nakba – catastrophe – is like building your campus calendar around Libel Israel We... er, Israel Apartheid Week, not Affirm Palestinianism Day. Such reactionary nationalism gives nationalists a bad name – even the Saudis say Israelis “have the right to have their own land.”

Palestinians can mourn their 1948 loss. But Nakba talk doesn’t heal or help learn from mistakes – it tries tarnishing Israel’s victory, hoping to destroy the Jewish state. The accusation might sound paranoid if not for millions of Palestinian war cries – and hundreds of unnecessary Jewish graves.

The Deir Yassin blood libel dominates the Nakba narrative. Even if every lie about the alleged massacre of April 9, 1948, were true, Palestinian propagandists would still be drawing absurdly sweeping conclusions. They claim this one, atypical incident typifies Israelis and negates Zionism’s legitimacy.

Over-generalizing from one deviation is idiotic.

Besides, morally it rings false because Palestinians have spent decades trying to perpetrate such massacres.

Bar-Ilan University professor Eliezer Tauber’s new, authoritative, 384-page, heavily-footnoted book in Hebrew, Deir Yassin: The End of the Myth, concludes “there was no massacre in Deir Yassin.” The kind of tenacious researcher who listed every person killed – reaching 120, not the 254 alleged – Tauber then proved that most died fighting. He acknowledges a few unnecessary civilian deaths. Still, he blames the chaos of war amid house-to-house combat in a fortified village, not systematic slaughter.

With equal doggedeness, Tauber traces how two miscalculations spawned this smear. First, rightwing Irguinists trying to prove their might and left-wing Hagana Zionists trying to delegitimize the Right exaggerated the number of casualties. Alas – backfire! Palestinians have been attacking Zionism with that 254 for 70 years.

Similarly, Palestinian leaders, especially Hussein Khalidi, concocted the massacre story, inflating the death count “so the Arab armies will come.” One Palestinian survivor remembers Khalidi saying, “We should give this the utmost propaganda possible because the Arab countries apparently are not interested in assisting us.” Another backfire. His lie that women were raped sent Arabs fleeing. “Dr. Khalidi was the one who caused the catastrophe,” a Palestinian witness admitted. “Instead of working in our favor, the propaganda worked in favor of the Jews.”

Liberal Jews are most susceptible to Deir Yassin lies and Nakba laments – most Americans ignore them. Once, American Jews and Israelis, Left and Right, shared common enemies: Arab dictators in the 1960s, Palestinian terrorists in the 1970s, Soviet oppressors in the 1980s. Today, pro-Palestinian Jews often forget to affirm their love of Israel and hatred of Palestinian terrorism, while Jews who hate Palestinians, too often hate Jews who don’t hate Palestinians.

Still, for most Americans, Jews and non-Jews, their disgust for Palestinian terrorism reinforces their support for Israel. Thus, we bond over 70 years of Israeli miracle-making and American-Israeli friendship.

That’s why on Independence Day, while singing “Hatikva,” “The Hope,” we should also sing “God Bless America.”

 

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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.